IMG_6104Mari is an intelligent, loving horse with a definite soft spot for children.  And like the children she works with today, she’s suffered from acting out of fear and intimidation.  Between Horses and Humans has changed Mari’s life and continues to heal her heart.

Neither Mari nor her owner Cindy Cowan had any idea what was in store for them when Cindy bought the horse from a local couple in November 2009. The couple brought Mari to Nevada from Iowa to be a show horse and be part of a breeding facility.  Mari is the granddaughter of the famous national show horse Color of Fame.  She is a saddle-bred crossed with arabians, and has a distinct beauty and grace.

In 2009 Cindy’s beloved gray arabian died after 22 years of partnership, so she was open to getting a new horse.  That’s when she crossed paths with Mari and the two formed a new partnership… sort of.  Mari was sold to Cindy under the guise that Mari was well-broke, but it didn’t take long for Cindy to realize that wasn’t the case.  Mari was extremely fearful, and would rear up at the slightest disturbance.  It turned out that Mari had received training in Nevada from a cowboy who “broke her in” in 6 weeks.  Based upon Mari’s level of fear and intimidation Cindy knew there had been some cruel tactics and techniques used with the horse prior to her owning Mari.  After many attempts to work with her new horse with little improvement, Cindy began looking for help.

Barbara Slade was working as horse trainer and was involved in the foundation that eventually became Between Horses and Humans, and she began working with Cindy and Mari.  Cindy moved Mari to the Imar ranch where Barbara worked.  Together the three of them worked to help Mari overcome her previous bad experiences and to build a relationship of trust.  The foundation owned Rascal & Fred at that time, and Barbara was often working with children near Mari’s stall.  The children would look at the horses, deciding whether to work with Rascal or Fred on a particular day.  During those moments Cindy and Barbara began to notice Mari staring longingly at the children as if to say, “Pick me!”.

IMG_4689Eventually Barbara agreed to allow the children to do ground work with Mari – she was still too risky for the students to ride at that point.  Mari loved the kids, and would wrap her neck around them, nuzzle them, and be playful and gentle.  Eventually she proved herself enough that the students would ride her.  Mari was very different when she worked with the children.  She was always careful and rarely displayed any of her fearful, rearing up behavior.  She loved the students.

Eventually the foundation program moved to a different ranch, but Mari stayed behind because she wasn’t part of the program and there wasn’t room for her at the new ranch.  Barbara continued to work with Cindy and Mari, and she showed vast improvement.  Mari likes to think, and she loves to do tricks.  Cindy was inspired when she saw the show Cavalia and she began to teach Mari some of the moves.  She began with the stump, then moved on to the pedestal, taught her to hold her legs up, take a bow, and play with balls, hoops, ribbons and so on.  Mari loved it, and it helped them to build their relationship of trust.  The fearful behavior became more and more scarce.

Mari EyeMari was reunited with the BHH program when they moved to Maddi’s Friesian Ranch in 2014.  She is wonderful with the students, and they definitely enjoy her affinity for performing tricks.  She was injured this year – she hurt her back and it has taken months to recover so she wasn’t being ridden much.  She is recovering well and is almost back to her former health.  As soon as she’s fully recovered she’ll be back to her regular schedule of working with BHH students on Mondays, Tuesdays, Saturdays, and sometimes Fridays, as well as her regular rides with Cindy.

Mari is an asset to the BHH program, and her journey through fear to triumph is an inspiration to BHH students.  A huge thanks to Cindy Cowan for her generosity in lending Mari to the BHH program.

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Photos by Nicole Eyerly

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